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He was sitting at the back of the tram.I noticed him as I scanned around for a spare seat.I initially judged his appearance, kind of drunk, or maybe on drugs, I thought.There was a stench of spilt alcohol nearby, but it wasn’t his.

I sat down on a seat on the opposite aisle.

I noticed his colourful cowboy boots.They were red, white and blue, like the American flag!

He caught me looking at him and smiled.

“Hey can you let me know when we get to Bridge Road? I’ll probably fall asleep, you know with the motion of the tram and all”, he asked.I nodded.“Sure, I’ll let you know”.

“Just call Gavin and I’ll wake up”, he yawned.

Gavin appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties.He had longish, partly gray hair, and a goatee.His face was slightly weathered and his hands had the yellow stains of a heavy smoker.

A group of teenage girls noisily clambered on board tram, laughing and chatting at the top of their voices.

Gavin groaned and woke up from his nap.He rolled his eyes and started to mock the girls, pulling faces at them.The girls were absorbed with their own company and appeared not to notice Gavin.

One of the girls yelled at her friends, “Should we get off? Have we reached Bridge Road yet?”

“Yeah, it’s Bridge Road, get off” said Gavin as though he could no longer tolerate the giggling teenagers.

The tram driver called out to the girls, “No, we’re not there yet, 3 more stops”.

I chuckled and Gavin looked at me.“Sorry I shouldn’t have said that”.I smiled, knowingly and shrugged my shoulders.He kinda had a point.

In the meantime, I put on my headphones, and listened to my Walkman.I shuffled around with some cassette tapes – fast forwarding, rewinding.

Gavin looked over, “you must have been through at least three tapes, are they your songs?”

I was surprised.“Yes, one of them is mine.”

“Have you just come back from a gig?”, Gavin asked.

“I’ve actually just finished rehearsing.We were recording an original tune”.I was somewhat impressed by his intuition.

Gavin was a session drummer and he told me that he used to play with well known bands and performers such as Renee Geyer, one of Australia’s finest soul, R&B singers.

Wow, I thought, he did look like a musician who’s had a tough life with many stories to tell.

More people poured onto the tram and I could no longer see Gavin.

The tram approached the Bridge Road stop.

I excused myself and moved past the people blocking my way towards the tram doors.I noticed that Gavin had got up from his seat and was also trying to make his way towards the exit.

We both got off the tram, including the giggling teenagers.

I told Gavin that I loved his Cowboy boots and asked if they were they from America.

He said, “Nah they’re from an Op Shop in Sydney”.

“Really! What a find!” I exclaimed and then added, “Are you from Sydney?”

“Yeah.I moved to Melbourne to look after my mum who’s not doing so well”. I acknowledged his sadness and said “that’s tough”.

I was curious to know if he still played the drums.

Gavin told me that he didn’t play much now.“There isn’t enough work around for us older blokes.I also gotta’ look after mum which takes up a lot of time”.

“What do you mean by ‘us older blokes’? I asked.

Gavin smiled.“ There are so many good young drummers out there just out of the College of Arts.Also, the pubs these days have a lot of younger blokes playing for nothin’ and playing all that alternative stuff.Not many pubs in the city want older guys playing rock”.

“Have you ever played anything other than rock music”? I asked.

Gavin sighed.“Yeah, I’ve dabbled in a bit of jazz and blues but there are so many good Jazz drummers out there, I guess I’ve had my time”.

“What about Renee Geyer? Have you played with her again?” I asked.

“She’s got her own drummer, but I’ve filled in for him a couple of times over the years”.

My connecting tram, the number 48, was due to arrive.

We both started to walk in the same direction until we said our goodbyes.Gavin wished me luck with my music.I wished he and his mum well.

As I got on the next tram, I thought about Gavin and those cowboy boots.He could have stepped right out of a movie set, the only thing missing was the cowboy hat!

I learnt something from meeting Gavin, a little humility perhaps, and to not judge people on first appearance.His story was real.

Gavin’s mum had terminal cancer and he was her only carer.He had given up his life in Sydney to look after her.

I talk to lots of people like Gavin on the tram.They all have so much to say.

I will always remember those Cowboy Boots.